Radiohead’s seventh album, In Rainbows, in case somehow you didn’t already know, arrived via a weblink today to those who opted into the band’s unique offer to “pay what you like” for it online, and finally shifted attention away from the band’s marketing genius and back onto their music. This should keep fans happy for now, as they wait for the third wave of the In Rainbows release, a box set, designed once again by Stanley Donwood and released in December.
While he is remaining quiet on how the final In Rainbows artwork will look (see CR’s December issue, out late November, for an early peek), Donwood has in fact been dropping hints via the Radiohead website for months now. The images shown here are from a selection that were posted up online over the 10 month period that the record was made.
“We put a different picture up everyday,” he says, “so people who were interested enough to go to the website got an idea of what we were doing. Although probably quite a misleading one as we didn’t use any of those images in the final thing.”
Donwood also discussed the experimental approach he took to the artwork, an attitude in keeping with the band’s own methodology for this album, from the music itself down to its unique distribution strategy. “I had quite a formal plan, which is unusual for me,” he comments. “I was really obsessed with suburbia and wanted to do an exploration of suburban life. But even in the first week I realised that that wasn’t right. It’s a sensual record and I wanted to do something more organic.” Alongside posting online, Donwood regularly put up images in the studio and had pictures playing on the slideshow of the studio’s computer, so that the band could interact directly with them and comment. “A lot of it is about finding out by experimentation,” he says of the creative process this time. “When you perform an experiment, you might have a hypothesis but you don’t know what will happen. There’s no control.”
Donwood also remarked on the pressure this form of distribution and pricing (the box set is £40, for which you get two CDs, a vinyl version of the album, and two books) places on his imagery for In Rainbows, with the music itself being almost devalued in place of the artwork and box set package. “I was deeply worried,” he says of the first time it was raised. “I still worry if people will like it. It’s very different, but it’s what seems to work with the music.”
As to what the final artwork will actually look like, we must still wait. Although Donwood does offer us one small clue: “We’ve embraced colour,” he says. “Thom wanted it to be really colourful.”